Return to Runö – Let’s Test 2016

Last year, Let’s Test 2015 was my first ever conference and it started my desire to visit more conferences and contribute to them as well. In addition it was my way to have chance to visit further conferences, since my company was not willing to further invest in any external training or conferences, only when it’s directly applicable to an immediate problem we have and cannot solve ourselves.

The call for proposals for Let’s Test 2016 was asking for crazy stuff, and I tried to come up with a proposal that showed some craziness. Or at least enough craziness to fit the expectation. I came up with two rather last minute proposals and was giving it a chance.
Weeks later I got a message from Dan Billing, “Wanna pair with me?” I had no clue what he was talking about. “Check your mail. Read and you’ll understand.” No mail, no capisce. But whatever it was, I agreed to it. My mail provider is sometimes a bit slow. And when finally the mail came in, I couldn’t stop smiling. One of my ideas got accepted! The reason behind Dan’s question was, they wanted us to pair up with someone else from the other speakers and do an additional crazy workshop.

My next moment of happiness was when it turned out that I got a flight about 60% of the usual cheapest price to Arlanda. Since paying for all conferences in 2016 myself, that came in just right.

Let’s Test 2015 was a special experience for me. I finally met several of the people I followed on Twitter in real life. They really existed. And there was this fantastic, inspiring and driving energy all over the place. What can I say. I met even more people in real life this year and the energy was there again this year, to my surprise in a different flavor, but as exciting and driving as last year. It’s an energy that lets even introverts meet new people, lets you discuss 3,5 days in a row for 16-20 hours a day about anything test-related or not, make you hold workshops after midnight, stay fully engaged and energized despite severe back pain and not much sleep.

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Oh yeah, one downside of Runö: the chairs. At least some of them. Maybe in addition to all the tension that lately build up, they tried to kill my back. It was obviously a muscular thing, since motion helped. But boy, I had never had such pain for nearly 4 days in a row. You won’t believe it, the energy of Runö helped me through that, without the right pain killers (only had paracetamol with me) or any professional help. It’s simply fascinating. If I’d had the same situation at home, I would have called a doctor the second day or dragged myself there to get a shot or two.
The only other downside, I found so far, one that most multi-track conferences have, you have to decide where to go to, and it’s guaranteed that you miss something else that you would have gone to, if you could.

By chance I found out about a nature reserve only a few minutes away from the conference place. So Monday after dinner I took the chance to get some more exercise for my back and visited that beautiful place. If you ever go to Runö and you need about an hour for yourself or to talk in quiet, take that walk. It’s such a beautiful place. (I added some photos at the end of this post.)

At Let’s Test I gave my first ever workshop. “Context Eats Process For Breakfast”, a workshop about process analysis, modelling and understanding the borders. I applied for a half-day workshop and only got a 2 hour slot. I tried to strip down the initial plan a bit and hoped for improvising during the workshop and to not skip any essential parts. I was able to finish in time, but sadly I had to hurry through some feedback rounds a bit too fast. I hope the workshop was still useful for my participants. I collected over 3 pages of feedback after self-reflection and I think I will try to send that or a similar proposal again for other conferences.

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Dan and my midnight workshop on Monday night, yes starting at midnight, was not very well visited. But in the end we were 7 people and used the “prepared” format to discuss a very personal problem of one of the participants, which might not have happened in a bigger group or a different combination of people. At least I hope we – as a group – were able to help a little bit with making a better decision.

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In addition to giving two workshops, I also volunteered to be a facilitator for other sessions. A job that can be a good support for the speaker, if necessary, to organize the Q&A session, simply help to prepare and clean up the room, or where you are not involved at all. I had examples of all four, and I will definitely sign up again. And I will encourage everyone to do the same.

Now let’s have a short overview of the sessions I attended. It started – of course – after some nice and decent sounds of an AC/DC cover band with the opening keynote by Rob Sabourin and his wonderful wife and best friend Anne. Anne is not a tester, she is an obstetric nurse. She was able to keep the whole audience listen to every word she had to offer, telling a wonderful story from her long experience as nurse. The topic was about triage, something that testers also need to do often. What are the factors that you need to consider in certain situations to make the right decision? The keynote turned into some kind of big workshop, and was a worthy kick off for a great conference.

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Chris Blain‘s workshop about “Context-driven hopes & dreams” was an interesting one for me, helping me a bit along the way on my search if I’m really context-driven. And it also had one ingredient I would have loved to have in my workshop. The speed Chris used for his workshop was fantastic. It was so relaxed, it gave all participants enough time to even introduce themselves, setting their context for others to understand. Something that is often forgotten, when multiple people talk about testing. And I have to say that my group produced the best result of all groups.

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My day continued with Chris Blain and Rob Sabourin, this time combined in a workshop about “Task Analysis and the Critical Incident Method”. I liked the workshop a lot, but it also scared the hell out of me, especially when after the break Rob started an exercise that was so close to one of mine for my workshop. But it gladly it took another turn.

I skipped the after-dinner workshop to visit the nature reserve, and listened to the party from outside (it was loud enough) for some great conversations. And at midnight Dan and I had our small workshop as already mentioned above. It was another long day in Runö, and worth every minute.

After some nice breakfast – the food was again very delicious on all days – I went to Mark Winteringham’s workshop about using Postman to test web services. I had only played around with SoapUI early last year, so I was gladly taking the chance to learn some more about that topic. Mark created a wonderful and easy to understand example application, with enough bugs for some encouraging moments, and challenging enough to better understand the topic.

After lunch I had my workshop, talking about breakfast. But hey, they had the chance to put it in another slot.

If you haven’t heard of “Transpection Tuesday” I don’t know under what rock you are living or in what part of the CDT community you reside. Well, in the next session Helena and Erik shared their techniques and approaches and gave some small insights into this living legend. Something many of us envy them for, but to be honest, there is no reason to. You can start the same thing, you “just” need to find someone to partner up.

After dinner, I was facilitating my first session. “Testing, wine, and food” by Lou and Jo Perold. I don’t drink (much) alcohol, so I was not sorry, that there was a table limit of 20, and that I – as facilitator – was not included actively. But I chose that session deliberately and for a good reason. I enjoy watching people engaging with food and drinks in a respectful way. And I like talking with those people about their experience and fascination. Observing 20 people carefully trying to understand the taste of some food and three different wines and the combinations of wine and some of the foods delivered what I was hoping for. It was a fun topic, and it was taken with seriousness and respect, and I was happy to silently observe it and provide an additional pair of hands and feet.

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On day 3 I missed the first session, as it was starting at 6 a.m., and my day 2 ended only around 2:45 a.m. But after breakfast and checking out I was ready for Dan Billing’s social engineering workshop. The room was quite packed and engaged, and Dan delivered a great workshop about an important topic. If you don’t believe that you leave many traces on the web, you might want to start trying a self-experiment. Just saying.

Then it was time for the session I was waiting for for so long. Damian Synadinos‘ “Tips&Tricks from Jester to Tester”. A workshop about improv theater techniques that are applicable to (mob) testing as well. I love improv comedy (shows like “Whose line is it anyway?”), I love techniques that improve spontaneous testing, and I was really looking forward to see Damian combining both in that workshop. I also was the official facilitator, but felt really useless in that role. Nevertheless I enjoyed the workshop, the engaged discussions, and funny improv pieces, as well as the testing pieces. I had high expectations and got not disappointed.

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After lunch it was time for my last facilitation and supporting Nicola Owen with her SpeakEasy talk “The Art of Picking Your Battles”. Nicola delivered a great talk and had a very attentive audience that was very engaged in the following open season (Q&A). If you want to read more about her session, you can find her view here.

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The closing keynote arrived, and I had to realize something that I thought was not possible. This was my first session by Fiona Charles. I was somehow avoiding her so far, which should not have been possible. Fiona had 5 sessions, and this was the first I made it to. Nearly impossible.
The closing keynote was truly worth a closing keynote. The topic “Gaining Consciousness” was all about learning about the project context. Most of us consider ourselves as context-driven, but how many really invest time to find out about the project context and do something with that information. The talk / workshop (yes, again a keynote in workshop format) was inspiring to think about our daily behavior, how much we really care for the context. As a closing keynote it really did a fabulous job. It kept me busy with that one thought for a couple of days now, and I guess it will for some more time. So thank you Fiona for providing that one thought to definitely follow up on for me this time.

Let’s Test, you have done a great job again. I will do a lot of things to return to you in 2017, because it is truly a highlight of the yearly conference circus. The energy of Runö is pure fascination to witness. The only sad thing is, that I – again – had not have enough time to spend with everyone I wanted to talk to more intensely. But that would need a few weeks, I’m afraid.

Thank you Johan, Henrik and Linda!

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Photos from the nature reserve

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